I received this book for free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.Resurrection Science: Conservation, De-extinction and the Precarious Future of Wild Things by M.R. O'Connor
on September 15th 2015
Genres: Animals, Contemporary, Endangered Species, Evolution, Genetics & Genomics, Life Sciences, Nature, Non-fiction, Science
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**A Christian Science Monitor Top Ten Book of September**
In a world dominated by people and rapid climate change, species large and small are increasingly vulnerable to extinction. In Resurrection Science, journalist M. R. O'Connor explores the extreme measures scientists are taking to try and save them, from captive breeding and genetic management to de-extinction. Paradoxically, the more we intervene to save species, the less wild they often become. In stories of sixteenth-century galleon excavations, panther-tracking in Florida swamps, ancient African rainforests, Neanderthal tool-making, and cryogenic DNA banks, O'Connor investigates the philosophical questions of an age in which we "play god" with earth's biodiversity.
Each chapter in this beautifully written book focuses on a unique species--from the charismatic northern white rhinoceros to the infamous passenger pigeon--and the people entwined in the animals' fates. Incorporating natural history and evolutionary biology with conversations with eminent ethicists, O'Connor's narrative goes to the heart of the human enterprise: What should we preserve of wilderness as we hurtle toward a future in which technology is present in nearly every aspect of our lives? How can we co-exist with species when our existence and their survival appear to be pitted against one another?
M.R O’Connor attempts to tackle the moral and social implications regarding de-extinction efforts. Considering the fact that mammoth DNA has been fully sequenced, it stands to reason the sequencing of other animal DNA is only a breath away. O’Connor delves in the questions: which animals are worth saving? What are the implications on the environment and human society? Will establishing the science of de-extinction devalue the meaning of “extinct species”?
The novel looks at extremely troubled Spray Toads whose natural habitat has been destroyed by human efforts. Spray Toads have helped humans understand the unintended effects of industrialization has on wildlife but also arises the question of when human development should be halted for environmental conservatism. The author also questions the moral implications when expensive conservation attempts are considered more important and saving human lives.
Meanwhile, the example of Florida Panthers is used to understand how human interaction with wildlife and changes of habitat has destroyed this mammal’s genetic legacy. A fearsome and beautiful creature reduced to inbreeding and tiny numbers due to habitat destruction. Humanity is growing at an exponential rate, destroying natural habitats and destroying the genetic legacy of many animals.
I definitely recommend reading this novel if you are just delving into the subject of de-extinction, as it is informative and thorough with plenty of wonderful animal histories.
Finally, the Northern White Rhino is used as an example of the cruelty of poachers with tales of over hunting due to greed. The Northern White Rhino is a perfect example of a species who suffered the failure of many conservation efforts and could potentially benefit from de-extinction programs. It definitely felt this was a fantastic creature to utilize in developing an understanding of the benefits de-extinction as well as a cautionary tale of human history.
O’Connor also looks at the implications of human contact, habitat destruction and the science of de-extinction in regards to:
Northern Right Whales (one of my favourite entries and definitely inspires me to read more Right Whale literature)
White Sands Pupfish
Unfortunately, I honestly didn’t click with the way the novel was narrated. Although O’Connor has a well researched and carried a solid premise..I dislike most narratives that hold humanity as most important. The discussion largely discussed the economic ramifications on smaller, poor communities in relation to expensive conservation projects and questioned whether human progress should be halted in the name of preserving the environment. Although I understand that “progress” cannot be stopped and economic powers will never halt construction of hydro-electric dams for mere toads; I am appalled that human life is considered more important than animal life. I found it uncomfortable reading a narrator who leans a bit further down the “save humanity” spectrum than I am. Regardless, Resurrection Science is extremely educational and definitely worth the read. I also plan on buying it if I can find it in my city because it’s worth keeping on the bookshelf for reference.
I also learned quite a bit about species of animal I’ve never heard of or really considered learning about.
I found Resurrection Science: Conservation, De-extinction and the Precarious Future of Wild Things an important read to understand further questions in the march towards developing de-extinction technology and policy. The fact that discerning which animal to use in de-extinction projects is interesting because we still don’t properly understand the interconnections of ecology or the effects on the environment regarding re-introduction of missing species.
This book will appeal to readers of science non-ficiton, people new to de-extinction science, animal lovers, humanists, nature lovers and animal documentary lovers. A book filled with animal trivia, experiences of those who are leaders in their fields and interesting moral questions. Resurrection Science: Conservation, De-extinction and the Precarious Future of Wild Things should not be missed by any science or nature lover!